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The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.
Agenda items 60 and 10 (continued)
Follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit
Report of the Secretary-General (A/58/323)
Report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization (A/58/1)
Mr. Lamba (Malawi): ...
No single nation today can claim to have the capacity to resolve, single-handedly, an armed conflict of the magnitude of that in the Middle East. The United Nations role with regard to the Palestinian problem, therefore, must continue to be visible, with international support being provided through the Quartet.
The President : We have heard the last speaker in the debate on these items for this meeting.
Several representatives have requested to exercise the right of reply. May I remind members that statements in the exercise of the right of reply are limited to 10 minutes for the first intervention and to five minutes for the second intervention and should be made by delegations from their seats.
I shall now call on those representatives who wish to speak in exercise of the right of reply.
Mr. Mekel (Israel): I regret to take the floor in exercising this right of reply to comments by certain delegations that have abused the debate in the Assembly to further their narrow political agenda. Representatives who express such concern when Israel exercises counter-terrorism measures in an act of self-defence, but fail to express even the faintest whisper of concern when dozens of innocent lives are lost at the hands of terrorists groups and the States that sponsor them, had best take a good look in the mirror.
Such failure to expressly condemn the deliberate murder of innocent civilians speaks to a double standard that for too long has plagued the agenda of the Assembly. The fact that it is not the loss of 19 innocent lives in a Haifa restaurant, not to mention the hundreds of other victims of Palestinian terrorism, that moves certain representatives to speak or act, but rather Israel’s defensive response to such aggression against a terrorist training facility speaks volumes about the values and intentions of such speakers.
Syria, a dictatorship which occupies a neighbouring State and which is known for sponsoring, financing and harbouring terrorism in violation of the most basic norms of international law, should be the last to speak of justice and law. The Syrian representative likes to preach reverently about his support for so-called resistance. Perhaps he can explain how exactly the attack in Haifa, perpetrated by an organization which Syria sponsors, harbours and supports, and which took the lives of so many innocent children and babies, serves as an act of legitimate resistance?
Perhaps he can explain how exactly the attack in Haifa, perpetrated by an organization which Syria sponsors, harbours and supports, which took the lives of so many innocent children and babies, serves as an act of legitimate resistance? Perhaps he can explain how the Syrians themselves have dealt with resistance, as in the case of Hama, where some 10,000 civilians were murdered by Syrian armed forces? Or perhaps he can explain what steps his Government has taken in accordance with Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) and the road map itself, which calls on States to cease all support for groups that deliberately murder innocents?
To revive the peace process, and to give the road map a chance to succeed, we cannot absolve State sponsors of terror of their responsibilities to the international community and under international law. The international community must not allow any political gain from a strategy of murder that has brought suffering and despair to all peoples of the region. To do so would only encourage that strategy and push the day of peace further into the future.
Mr. Nakkari (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): We were not surprised by the manner in which the Israeli representative began his statement. He immediately condemned all those countries that have already denounced the wanton act of aggression that took place on 5 October against a peaceful Syrian village. That shows a mentality that supposes anyone with different beliefs to be an enemy.
A few days ago, from this very rostrum, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel requested the General Assembly to review its approach and methods of work and to cease adopting resolutions that call on Israel to be committed to international legitimacy. That shows the logic and nature of that entity and the way in which it deals with its neighbours.
The false claims that have been made are not new to this audience, and we regret the fact that we will have to respond to them on yet another occasion.
Israel’s supposed concern for peace is hard to believe, since the current Government of Israel is a war Government that has not refrained from killing men, women and children or from demolishing houses and confiscating lands. We have quoted from the report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization regarding the suffering of 1.3 million people due to Israeli practices. Those people now live under the poverty line.
The report also notes that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East cannot fulfil its mandate because of the policy of siege and closures. That country knows only war and violence, exports its internal crises to other countries, and has consistently attempted to kill the chance for peace.
The international community had been discussing the possibility of finding a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But Israel has sabotaged that possibility, and is now trying to compel the world to discount the option of a peaceful solution.
The option of peace as a strategic choice — a choice that has been made by all the countries of the region except Israel. That also was alluded to in the report of the Secretary-General.
Syria also recalls that it has consistently called for a peace based on resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the Madrid framework, the principle of land for peace and other agreements reached by both parties, in addition to the Arab peace initiative presented at the Beirut Arab Summit. These are the same bases that the Secretary-General mentioned in his report.
Other false and misleading claims were made about Syria’s occupation of Lebanon. I believe that it is insolent for anyone to make such false claims. These are two peoples, two brotherly Governments, that have agreed on different measures that suit both of them. This is a case in which two Governments are legitimately represented and have chosen freely. The accusations against them are sheer insolence.
With regard to the other allegations made about the Government of Syria, I can say only that the Government commands the respect of the Syrian people. We believe that was the main reason for Israel’s act of aggression. We are proud of our leadership and our Government.
Our leadership is as close as can be to the Syrian street’s ambitions and to the hearts and minds of the Syrian people. It wants to work for peace, not to be subjected to such horrible acts of aggression. That is what we mean when we say that Israel can export only violence and destruction to its neighbours.
I should like also to recall that it is well known that the democratic Israeli system has been able to elect only war criminals — Yitzhak Shamir was one of the accused in the assassination of Count Bernadotte, a symbol of the United Nations. Is the current Prime Minister of Israel any better? Both of them have been members of organizations such as Hagganah and Stern, two organizations that have spread terror in the region — terror that was unprecedented before Israel existed.
Is occupation not the worst kind of terrorism and oppression — killing children and civilians, bombing them, destroying their houses and shooting missiles at them from fighter jets? In addition, thousands of people have been displaced because of all those acts of aggression.
I should like here to refer once again to the report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization. I would also like to add that the claim that Syria is responsible for the loss of nineteen lives is baseless and groundless. It attempts to find justification for a Government that is facing serious crises internally and exports them to other countries in the form of false claims.
In Syria, we have more than half a million Palestinian refugees who dream of going back home. Some of them still keep the keys to their homes. Who is denying them the right to return? It is Israel, in a clear and blatant violation of international legitimacy and of all United Nations resolutions, including resolution 194 (III) of the General Assembly.
If Israel considers these half million refugees as a cause of terrorism, then I can simply say that if those people were allowed to return to their homes, the crisis would be solved. Does Israel have the courage to take such a step, to allow them to return to their homes? Geographically, and for all practical purposes, half a million Palestinians who used to have normal lives are now accused of terrorism whatever they do. Even when the press pays attention to them, it is considered by Israel as terrorism.
The President: I call on the representative of Israel for his second and final intervention of five minutes.
Mr. Mekel (Israel): I regret that I have to exercise my right to a second intervention to reply to the Syrian representative, who today chose to turn this important debate on the follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit and the report of the Secretary-General into a series of attacks against the State of Israel. And now he pretends to be surprised that he is getting the reply that he deserves.
The Syrian representative claims that Israel attacked a peaceful Syrian village. If that were not so sad, it would be amusing, because it is always very amusing when one sees a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Let me say a few words about what Syria is doing about terrorism. First of all, the encouragement, safe harbour, training facilities, funding and logistical support offered by Syria to a variety of notorious terrorist organizations is a matter of public knowledge. Among the many terrorist groups that operate under and benefit from the auspices of the Syrian dictatorship are the Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It is well known that the secretary-general of the Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, is one of several terrorist leaders who operate freely in Damascus and receive immunity and support from the Assad regime.
Allow me to briefly detail the extent of support that Syria offers to terrorist organizations. This is what they do: they provide safe harbour and training facilities throughout Syria for terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah, both in separate facilities and on Syrian army bases. Syria has itself facilitated and directed acts of terrorism by coordinating and conducting briefings via phone and the Internet and by calling activists to Damascus for consultations and briefings. Syria uses its State-run media and official institutions to glorify and encourage suicide bombings against civilians in restaurants, schools, commuter buses and shopping malls in the State of Israel. Syria has facilitated the transfer of arms to Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad by allowing the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Iran to Hezbollah through Syrian territory. These are just a few examples of Syria’s complicity with terror.
On the other hand, Israel’s measured defensive response to the horrific suicide bombings, directed against the terrorist training facility in Syria, is a clear act of self-defence, in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter. This response comes after Israel has exercised tremendous restraint, despite countless acts of terrorism that have claimed hundreds of innocent lives and for which Syria bears direct and criminal responsibility. It comes after Israel and the international community as a whole have repeatedly called on Syria to end its support of terrorism and to finally comply with international law. It is designed to prevent further armed attacks against Israeli civilians in which Syria is complicit, with a view to encouraging Syria to resolve its dispute through bilateral negotiations, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), as it legally is required to do.
The President : I call on the representative of the Syrian Arab Republic for his second and final intervention of five minutes.
Mr. Nakkari (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): We were planning to refrain from taking further part in this polemical exercise, but I am intrigued by the representative of Israel’s use of the expression, “The wolf has become the victim”. I do not know how many more thousands of Arabs need to die in our region in order for the representative of Israel to consider the situation to be fair and just.
I would like to quote from a story that appeared in the Israeli newspaper, Maarif , about 20 children who were playing in an amusement park and suddenly began shouting, “Death to Arabs”, while their families looked on with amusement. Another article from the same newspaper states that such scenes are common. The article also reports a conversation between two people who, discussing the fact that 50 people had been killed, expressed the wish that that number had been a hundred.
Rabbi Goldstein and Rabbi Schwinn, who are members of the Israeli organization Neturei Karta, have described the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, as an ugly personification of Zionism. When addressing a group of Arabs, Rabbi Goldstein also said:
“We would like to say to the Arabs, in particular the Palestinians, that there is no war between them and the Jews. The real Jews have never enjoyed peace and tranquillity except with their Muslim and Christian Arab brothers before the establishment of the Zionist State.”
That may give an idea of the true terrorist attitude of Israel — an attitude that has preoccupied the General Assembly and the Security Council for a very long time. Israeli terror against all the countries of the region and its policy of occupation and aggression know no limits, despite the hundreds of resolutions that have been adopted — resolutions that would not have been renewed in the General Assembly if the settler occupier entity had abided by international law.
With regard to the claims that Syria is harbouring terrorists, I would like to state that in the 1980s we were one of the earliest victims of terrorism while others just looked on. With regard to Hizbullah, I should like to point out that, in a letter contained in document A/56/226 responding to repeated claims by Israel, we stated that the Government of Israel knew very well that Hizbullah is a Lebanese party that works on Lebanese territory, is supported by the Lebanese people and receives no instructions from Syria.
The list of excuses, lies and false claims is endless. The more than 500,000 Palestinians who are in Syria are not terrorists, but ordinary citizens who would like to return home. Yet their presence there is all it takes for the Israeli representative to claim that Syria is harbouring and supporting terrorism. Syria has information and humanitarian offices in Syria that provide services to those needy people — people who have resorted to living in Syrian territory because they are not allowed to live on their own land. We are simply asking that they be allowed to go home.
The meeting rose at 6.15 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.